Submitted By dpg1x2x3
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Platonic Consistencies in Contemporary Politics Although written in ancient times, many of Plato’s conceptions still hold value today when analyzing current conditions in society today. It is easy to be overwhelmed with frustration when searching to make sense of vastly confusing issues such as politics. When viewing such topics through concepts and ideologies set forth in The Republic, one may gain relevant insight into the gears which drive the wheels of political governance. Plato writes of a division of class into the gold, silver, and bronze categories drawing parallels with the tripartite division of other concepts such as the soul and the state. Plato states that gold, silver, and bronze classes each have a specific role, which was naturally designated to them to best serve the state as a whole. For this discussion, I will focus on the ruling class, or Guardians, and their position of influence above the other two classes. According to Plato, every person must fall into their naturally fitted role in respects to their class. This proposes that individuals stick to their own respective expertise, with the bronze class producing, the silver class as auxiliaries, and the gold class as rulers. It is further proposed through Socrates’ words that it is of the utmost importance to keep the metals pure, which would require biological parents to surrender their children to their respective assigned class.
Socrates states in book III, “…the first and most important of god’s commandments to the Rulers is that in the exercise of their function as Guardians their principal care must be to watch the mixture of metals in the characters of their children. If one of their own children has traces of bronze or iron in its make-up, they must harden their hearts, assign it its proper value, and degrade it to the ranks of the industrial and agricultural class where it properly belongs…” (415b, c). The concept of class order proposed here requires great checks and balances to ensure that the state remain in harmony and stability, with wisdom in charge rather than desire. It is for this purpose that Socrates argues later on This tripartite division, much like the tripartite division of soul, designates a clear rank and structure, and a fixed relationship among the classes which is in harmony to produce the ideal city-state. With the gold class representing reason and wisdom, they are to be upheld by the honor of the silver class, and sustained through the produce of the bronze class. This specialization is proposed to allow the best natural qualities of individuals to benefit each other to their greatest ability. According to Socrates, “the state founded on natural principals is wise as a whole in virtue of the knowledge inherent in its smallest constituent part or class, which exercises authority over the rest” (428e). Governed by reason and knowledge of what is good, rather than opinion of what is good, Socrates argues his position for the philosopher being the best fit to rule over the other classes.
Plato proposes guidelines to prevent power from corrupting the Guardians and Auxiliaries of state. Among these guidelines, it is suggested that Guardians “have no private property beyond the barest essentials” (416d). This is done to keep desires from corrupting the gold and silvers, who are solely purposed as servants to the state as a whole. Socrates argues further for the necessity of these checks and balances, “If they acquire private property in land, houses, or money, they will become farmers and men of business instead of Guardians, and harsh tyrants instead of partners in their dealings with their fellow citizens” (417b). Socrates describes conditions in which the position of power has led to the corruption of the soul and in